AUSTRALIA'S big mining companies have created the high-cost culture to which they are now objecting, former Treasury secretary Ken Henry says.
They are complaining that Australia's costs are increasing at the same time as they are pushing them up, he told an audience at the Academy of the Social Sciences in Sydney on Tuesday night.
''Business people talk a lot about Australia being a high-cost, low-productivity country, but the fundamental reason labour costs have been increasing at the rate that they have is the mining boom,'' he said in answer to questions.
''Miners and energy producers are paying more for labour, because they want to. In order get labour to work in the mines, they have to pay handsome wages to attract the labour out of the places from which it has been attracted.
''That's the fundamental reason why costs have been increasing in the sector. I'm not saying it's the only reason, but it is the fundamental reason - strong demand for Australia's minerals and energy.
''What can we do about it? We can find ways of boosting labour productivity without it flowing through into increased wages. We did this in the second half of the 1980s. It was a pretty unique period in Australian history.''